Print Story not sure if BS: musical chords and topology
By gzt (Fri Aug 16, 2013 at 12:43:55 AM EST) gzt, breaking bad, calculon (all tags)

I'm too tired to actually read it right now, but, if true and not trivial, worth looking at. at the very least, it's within the level of music theory I know and the the level of maths a lot of you could fake.

today is the feast of dormition and some people's birthdays. joyous feast and happy birthday. the hymnography at one point has a great line for those who are in church choirs: "Come, ye assembly of those who love the feasts of the Church! Come, let us form a choir!" WE'RE GETTING THE BAND BACK TOGETHER.

re: choir stuff. so i'm not totally incompetent at basic musicianship right now. still kind of terrible. I'd give myself a... middle C?

Somebody posted a Hegel gif on the internets: It made me wonder semi-seriously: what would Kierkegaard say in response? This is a legitimate objection, in my mind, to a lot of the modern rhetoric of liberty. Sure, it is formally an ad hominem, but an ad hominem is not intrinsically fallacious. It is only fallacious when it is a non sequitur.

Even so: when levied against a typical libertarian, they are not the class that benefits from those private interests, they are typically low-wealth and low-power internet commenters who have bought into the great liberty swindle, in my own terribly unbiased reading. So we should be careful not to be logically rude blah blah blah DAMN THE TROLLPEDOES FULL SPEED AHEAD.

okay, i started to listen to the video about the music, so far i'm all like whatevs. srsly, this is like an hour of bullshitting with friends and then condensing it down. i spent the entire time thinking, "wait, when's the interesting part?"

I just find it so amusing that the libertarians I run into find the State to be such an oppressive institution - "I didn't sign up for a social contract" - but don't have any such problem with the institution of property rights - though I certainly don't recall signing up for this system of property rights. Maybe I'm just running into low quality libertarians. And I've been ideologically biased against libertarianism since the K5 days, so that's an entire decade.

the latest Futurama episodes have been okay. I approve. I'm not terribly broken up about the idea of ending the show, though. all good things must come to an end, sic tranit gloria mundi, but it's better to go out on an okay note than push it past its expiration. the calculon episode was pretty great.

breaking bad is also doing pretty well. the wifing unit gave up during season 2 because she hated the characters, but i showed her a couple scenes from the latest episode because i knew she'd appreciate it. it's good stuff. they acted the shit out of that last scene.

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not sure if BS: musical chords and topology | 6 comments (6 topical, 0 hidden)
a college roomie by sasquatchan (4.00 / 1) #1 Fri Aug 16, 2013 at 09:07:29 AM EST
who was both a CS genius and a big music guy. He wrote a markov chain music generator to generate music "randomly" based on some simple "after playing note/chord/notes X, play note Y, where Y is the set of notes most often played after X".. It would generate decent music for a few minutes, but then devolve, it if took one of the lesser branches.

(he wrote his own pre-emptive multi-tasking OS for the robotics class over a few all-nighters, because he wanted threads and what not in his robot .. He wrote several C-64 games [this is circa 95] in c-64 assembly.. he's spend nights in the music building [because it was never locked, or else he had a key or knew how to break in] jamming on the practice pianos.. Guy was brilliant, but dropped out at spring break, senior year.. Smart but lazy -- only worked on what he wanted to work on, if/when he wanted to work on it ..)

i read about something like this a while ago. by the mariner (4.00 / 1) #2 Fri Aug 16, 2013 at 03:33:54 PM EST
sounded like bullshit at the time.

Numerology... by ana (4.00 / 1) #3 Fri Aug 16, 2013 at 04:26:19 PM EST
It's much the same as bullshit.

I now know what the noise that is usually spelled "lolwhut" sounds like. --Kellnerin

[ Parent ]
oh sh*t son, something in my wheelhouse? by nathan (4.00 / 1) #4 Mon Aug 19, 2013 at 08:04:22 AM EST
I might have guessed that a Chicago person would post this. At my masters orals, I happened to characterize a voice-leading structure as "parsimonious". The examiners looked at each other, then at me, and one of them said, "Here, we don't use that Chicago word".

First some context. The idea of "chord progressions" was invented by Rameau ca. 1725. (IOW, around 125 years after the emergence of fully tonal music and around 175 years after the first music that was controlled at least in part by unambiguously tonal structures). So J.S. Bach, e.g., probably never heard of "the V chord" until he was an old man, and in fact most of Bach's terminology is incredibly archaic and impenetrable to musicians with modern training -- it uses a lot of modal and Greek language.

Bach, Handel, et al., and their precursors learned the tonal system as a web of modal terms and applied techniques in continuo and partimento. So, for instance, when Handel wrote a music theory text for the education of British toffs, it was a continuo manual. By practicing the harmonization and voice-leading techniques in the manual, you were "learning music theory", since to Handel, "music theory" meant a practice based on suspensions and voice leading. The root movements that most musicians with modern training rely on were largely unarticulated. Obviously Bach and Handel knew what they were, but there was no standard vocabulary to talk about them with, and you were supposed to learn them implicitly rather than explicitly.

Rameau changed all that. He theorized that (1) you could form a triad on each note of the scale and (2) you could write rules for moving from one triad to another. This revolutionized music. All of a sudden, people were focusing on root movements at the expense of everything else. (This is why, in terms of internal counterpoint like inner-voice passing notes and suspensions, Romantic music can come to seem rather impoverished. When Romantic composers write stuff that's supposed to sound like a chorale, it never quite works because they are writing chord to chord without thinking as deeply as Baroque composers about the inner-voice structure). But Rameau's theory was certainly productive. It greatly cut the training time for composers, for one thing -- just look at Schumann, Berlioz or Wagner, for example, all of whom decided to become composers as adults with little formal music education, something that would have been unimaginable during the Baroque era, when they would have required 10 years of formal training on continuo to be able to work out pieces.

Rameau's theory is also the basis of all modern popular music. A lead sheet, for instance, shows the melody and the chords, and what you do with the inner voices is pretty much your own business. Compare to a Baroque continuo accompaniment -- it's equally terse, specifying the bass and the chords, but it also specifies suspensions, or in other words inner-voice behavior, in a notation that is, if anything, even more spare than that of the lead sheet.

In the 19th century, this guy called Riemann decided to work out Rameau's theory in much more detail, creating what he called a Tonnetz or "tonal array". This was a two-dimensional diagram connecting notes upon which you could trace both chords and bass progressions. Once you've got any kind of array, you've opened up musical structures to mathematical systemization. And these days, "neo-Riemannian analysis" (based in Mitteleuropa and Chicago) is pretty much a sub-discipline within algebra.

The problem is that, like a lot of 19th-c positivist ideas, this idea worked without actually working. Even though you can play all kinds of cute games with it, neo-Riemannian analysis is not actually a productive system, which is why my advisors didn't like that Chicago word.

The problem is that a chord isn't equal to a chord. In Bach, you can go back and map chords onto what he wrote, but the structure you are imposing contains a number of simplifying assumptions that cut out much of the point. For instance, a n-R analysis would abstract out the suspensions, non-chord notes, rhythm and larger tonal context, and the resulting spherical cow would be so generic that after the analysis, there would be little difference between Bach and Happy Birthday. This problem is even more pronounced in the work of Haydn and Mozart because their harmonic structures (at least at the phrase level) are so often based on the Classical version of a turnaround.

So yeah, you can decide to make a Tonnetz and then explore its geometry. This might even be incidentally productive of good music, much as a computer program simulating 3-d motion might give a filmmaker or a painter some interesting ideas or w/e. But you aren't finding the secret of great music because understanding the chord progressions in great music is largely a trivial exercise once you know how to do it and it rarely tells you what's good about the music. Mozart wrote whole sonata movements based on I IV V I, so how come when I do that it doesn't sound like Mozart? Etc.

considering the audience, i should also note by nathan (4.00 / 1) #5 Mon Aug 19, 2013 at 08:07:55 AM EST
That the Riemann of the Tonnetz was distantly (IIRC) related to the Riemann of the Riemann integral.  

[ Parent ]
that was my question. by garlic (2.00 / 0) #6 Mon Aug 19, 2013 at 04:21:42 PM EST

[ Parent ]
not sure if BS: musical chords and topology | 6 comments (6 topical, 0 hidden)